Predictions aren’t just before the season. Before every week, every night and every match-up we have analysts picking sides and justifying their pick. But that’s the fascinating thing about the NBA. It’s always full of surprises and late in games very unpredictable.
Just few days back, while watching the Lakers and Rockets score update on my phone I had given up on any chance the Lakers had when the score was 97-91 with 2:40 left in the final period. And look at how it ended. Steve Blake sealed the game for the Lakers with the game winner over Dwight Howard. Although I was ecstatic as a Lakers fan to see them win, I was more surprised that it was even a close contest.
My point being, the first two weeks of the NBA have had its share of unexpected news and here’s a jist of it.
Lottery contenders tanking wrong
Heading into the season the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns were seen as the contenders for the top picks in the next year’s much anticipated draft. However, both teams have flipped the scripts of many analysts by having a great first two weeks to the season.
Philadelphia 76ers was considered the favorite among the two teams to tank and win a high lottery pick next year. Instead they head out of the blocks winning their first three games of the season and presently sitting at a high second spot in the East. Led by the rookie Michael Carter Williams they beat the Heat in their opening game and Chicago Bulls 3 days later.
Whether their stellar performance can last the length of the regular season is too early to predict. However this can be said for certain that the 76ers have used their underdog status to good effect.
The Morris twins getting more playing time has been extremely instrumental to them sitting at 3rd in the West with a record of 5-2. Their two losses have come against the Western Conference Champions from the past years- the Spurs and Thunder. An improved defense and rebounding numbers can be credited as huge factors in their rise.
The signs so far have been excellent but can this defense hold up throughout the regular season against the best offensive units in the league is yet to be seen.
Two players making an early and unexpected return from injury
Westbrook looked rusty in the first few minutes but showed the promise of a productive season in 33 minutes played against the Phoenix Suns with figures of 21 points-4 rebounds-7 assists. Despite Bynum having a more cautious return, in 7:34 minutes he gave his new franchise a preview of what they could expect from him. His stat sheet read 3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks.
Despite being unexpected and early, Bynum’s return was long awaited and more of a fitness check, nothing more. There is no doubt he will be a lethal part of the Cavaliers bandwagon in their effort to make the Playoffs and also in the post-season once they get there.
On the other hand, Westbrook’s return was 2 weeks ahead of schedule but that did not stop him from driving to the basket with the same explosive and attacking style of his. Oklahoma City Thunder stands a realistic chance at the title once again with his return.
Top teams in the East struggling at the bottom
Everyone named about 4 teams in the East who would be legitimate contenders to dethrone the Heat. While the Pacers are running away from the rest of the Conference with their unbeaten 7-0 record, the rest of the predicted top teams are having a tough go.
It’s still very early in the season to make an issue out of it but let’s face it New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets were expected to finish better than 14th and 15th spot in the conference standings. A lack of execution on the part of the players, the team still searching for its identity as a unit, the team still looking for its chemistry, whatever the reason seeing these teams at the bottom is a surprise as much as it is a disappointment.
The Brooklyn Nets have been on either side of a close thriller in their first two games. After losing against the Cleveland Cavaliers they bounced back to give the defending champions Miami Heat their second straight loss. But since their play has been nothing more than disappointing, considering the amount spent in the off-season to assemble this team.
The wins for the Knicks have been against a newly assembled struggling Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Bobcats which was more like avenging their loss in their previous game to them. They lost to the Chicago Bulls in a close encounter but it still counts as a loss. Most recently they were thrashed 120-89 at home by the San Antonio Spurs.Published 12 Nov 2013, 09:27 IST